On one hand, we shouldn’t be concerned with measuring the “success” of an MMO. What makes a game successful is in some ways an arbitrary thing to begin with. Yes, financials are one aspect, but measurables past that depend on to what degree you think games are art or not. They are a creation, but an interactive creation that can have a deeper personal impact than, say, a desk chair. To me, Dark Age of Camelot (yup, bringing that up again) was a huge success. Try telling that to a fresher crop of MMO gamers and they may roll their eyes at the thought because, on the other hand, people will measure an MMO success by other means.
This whole thought process got started because of the recent ArenaNet post regarding the increased number of servers now primed and ready for the droves of would be beta testers for this coming weekend. No doubt doubling the servers was a “must” in ANet’s eyes, but I can’t help but feel like the worried old man who has lived through some tough times and seen this before. Having abundant servers for an MMO, in my experience, is a double-edged sword. It makes for good times during the launch phase, but eventually acts as a magnet for doomsayers when the game is settling to nominal levels further down the road.
If you remember Warhammer Online’s experiences with server merges, you’ll recall that it wasn’t pretty. It was needed, and for many players it was a boon to have fresh blood pumping through the world, but many were adversely impacted by the shuffle. The removal of servers additionally acted as a de-motivator to some degree due to the negativity surrounding the game. Even those who still held on to hope for it, like myself, couldn’t help but question the games future*.
So what am I getting at? Just worry, mostly. MMO’s nearly always open their doors like floodgates to the sudden deluge of players, only to see the waters eventually settle out. When they do, people respond negatively to any adjustment made by the developers. I just hope that ArenaNet is prepared to ride that wave.
*I only speak in past tenses for myself. WAR is still active and people, like Werit, seem to be enjoying the game.